of the 07-13-04 meeting of the Rocky Mountain
Group (RMIUG): "Internet Technology
Trends: Still Kicking After All These Years"
The meeting started at 7:15 with about
25 people in attendance.
Josh was the only committee member in attendance
and ran the meeting.
He thanked the RMIUG sponsors for their
generously provides food and
beverages at the meetings. The company provides
Creative and Technical
Talent for Web, Interactive Media, Marketing
Communications and Software
-- a Colorado-based software company that
provides semi-custom web-based applications,
is the sponsor of the RMIUG
NCAR -- for the use of their wonderful
Copy Diva (http://www.copydiva.com)
- for the audio visual equipment.
Jeff Herman of Boulder's Webroot Software
says he has
many job openings. Webroot makes Spy Sweeper,
Window Washer, and
other security tools. Webroot is "growing
like crazy" and repeatedly
posts on RMIUG's email list. They need c++,
delphi, and QA people.
They also need research analysts who know
about spyware, software
product managers, sales people, accounting
folks, web developers, and
web masters. Send resumes to firstname.lastname@example.org
or see the website for
There was a reminder of an upcoming meeting
of the Rocky Mountain
Webmasters Guild (to occur before publication
of these minutes). The
website is www.rmwmg.org.
A job-finding workshop in Colorado Springs
has been advertised in
RMIUG. A customer testimonial claims it's
worth it, provides very
useful tools for digging up those hidden
Internet Technology Trends: Still Kicking
After All These Years
Dean Rizzuto (email@example.com)
is Founder & President of
Boulder-based NewGuard, a strategic web
solutions company. Dean has
used proven development strategies and processes
that deliver cutting
edge solutions for companies like Churchill
Downs, Inc., Gambro, and
The Cable Center. Dean discusses some of
the latest technologies
clients are asking to implement including
Weblogs, WIKIs, and Content
Management Systems. He talks about what
clients really want: a good
return on their technology investment.
Joe Mease (firstname.lastname@example.org)
is the Multimedia Director at
Creation Chamber (the Agency where Josh,
the MC for the meeting, also
works), a Denver-based web development agency
whose clients include
Denver Broncos, Colorado Crush, and MapQuest.
With Joe at the helm
of its Flash development, Creation Chamber
has won many awards for
his innovative design. One of his sites,
Simpson Property Group
is a finalist in the Flash Film
Festival at the Flash Forward Conference
in New York City. Joe talks
about trends with Macromedia Flash and how
its ubiquity is not only
fueling acceptance in the marketplace, but
enabling websites to
become more usable and functional.
I've been involved with web more or less
since it started. I was an
RMIUG speaker once before, and I thank the
great leadership of this
IN THE PAST: Companies would implement
the coolest and newest
technologies as fast as possible at whatever
cost--a very tactical
mindset that was all about being the first
to use X or Y technology.
Being first at any cost (keeping up with
the Jones's) was seen as
more important than applying technology
strategically. Not much
thought went into choosing, evaluating,
technologies. Companies didn't focus on
actual business value.
Perhaps many of us can remember what we
might have participated in,
and how they were major failures. There
was a great deal of the use
of technology for the sake of the technology.
Like Java at first.
People did it because they could do it,
not because their customers
NOW: It's not as much about what technology
is used but how and when
the technology is used. I work with clients
to build web solutions,
not web sites. A web solution is based on
how the business operates
and the audienceneeds and wants. It is important
to consider these
issues. For example, one of my clients is
Churchill Downs, a
racetrack. Their customers who bet on the
races just want quick
access to information, so it's not useful
to use Flash for such an
It's also important to consider what existing
the company has. We need to make the best
use of their in-house
expertise and technologies they already
have. So we try to recommend
technologies that fit with prior investments.
More businesses are asking: How can internet
technologies be applied
to our business to make or save money? How
can technologies increase
sales or reduce costs?
What are some of the latest Internet technology
trends and how can
they be used effectively? They are Content
Management Systems, WIKIs,
- - - - - - - - - - - -
CONTENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
A CMS allows someone with no knowledge
of website creation to update
content on a website. A complex CMS like
Vignette can include
content review/approval processes within
the content updating system.
Vignette can be overkill in many cases,
where a simpler CMS will work
better. The cost of CMS systems is coming
-on the web, content is king
-constant updating is required
-should be easily updated by lay people
-empowers the business to control their
A CMS reduces time it takes to get information
to customers. A CMS
can bypass the webmaster, giving the content
creator the power to
update the website directly. Good open-source
php, perl, and
asp-based CMS systems are available.
Audience Comment: Sometimes it's better
to free the creators from
doing the web updates so they can concentrate
on the information and
not worry about using the CMS.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
WIKI is a collaborative software tool,
like groupware. Essentially
it's a web application that allows a group
of people to edit the same
document. It's good for intranet on-line
collaboration inside a
company. WIKI collects information from
multiple sources. It is a
popular, open-source tool. Free WIKI engines
are available on
internet, and they are easy to set up. Software
document their apps on the WIKI, describing
any kind of behavior they
need to. At the same time the hosting folks
can add their concerns to
the same WIKI, asking questions and getting
answers. The WIKI helps
keep project teams communicating with one
A WIKI can also be a good content generating
tool for a commercial
website and a good way to engage with customers.
Some public WIKI
-Wikipedia: a collaborative encyclopedia
where anyone adds
information on a given topic. It is an open,
which is typical for WIKIs. You can roll
back to previous versions,
or make corrections to the current one.
-Javapedia: This is a Sun Microsystems website
that solicits public
input. Visitors can create good engaging
content for the company.
-DJUG Installopedia: This is a Denver Java
User Group site that lists
all open-source software available, where
to get it, how to install.
It includes a lot of first-hand information
from people who have used
- - - - - - - - - - - -
WEBLOGS & SYNDICATED NEWSFEEDS
A blog is a website that contains information
posted in reverse
chronological order. It's interactive, with
people posting questions
and answers. An RSS feed can grab the blog
info and put into an XML
format. This allows it be excreted into
multiple media formats for
browsers, PDAs, and cell phones. RSS can
information and feed it to these devices.
Generally a News Aggregator
is the software that processes and displays
an RSS feed.
For business applications, weblogs can
facilitate group discussions.
RSS can support Channel Communications in
which specific information
is syndicated out to others, such as business
partners, via an RSS
feed. This allows you to automatically control
how your partners
display the information you are providing,
rather than telling them
to paste something into their website.
Some charge a fee to access their RSS feeds.
It's a simple way to
incorporate content into a website. Some
CMS packages incorporate RSS
feeds, so that a website can have content
both generated and updated
-Use technologies strategically, not tactically.
-What are the audience's needs?
-What are the business goals?
-What existing technology investments can
-How can we set up a measurement path to
see if the technology is
being used effectively?
A video of this presentation will be available
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Download this MS PowerPoint presentation
Download the video of this presentation
What is flash, what shouldn't it be, and
where is it going?
I've been using Flash for about five years,
since version 3. Back
then it was a vector-based animation tool
for used for website intros
and banner ads. It was over-used and left
a bad taste in our mouths.
Everyone looks for that "skip intro"
But now it is becoming more of business
solution in the sense that
Dean described. Some 96 percent of clients
have a flash plugin
installed, and it's the most popular browser
plugin on the internet.
Flash features small file sizes and can
be good for slow connections.
It's now getting more object oriented which
also keeps downloads
small. Typically a Flash application starts
with an 80k download then
only requests more as needed.
You can expect Flash to play almost the
same on a mac or a pc and
across different browsers because it's handled
by the flash player
and not the browser.
Joe displayed a variety of Flash implementations
that he created:
-Denver Broncos game companion: This for
people at home to do stuff
while the game is on. It includes chats,
skits, tailgate recipes,
score prediction, and polls about the game
that users can create. For
the polls, you get real-time response statistics.
They had about 1800
users for first game, then later it dropped
off to 700 users per game
as it was no longer new.
-My Locker: This is a 32-bit client desktop
application that you
download and install. Then you customize
it to grab bronco news your
interested in, and it will automatically
find new content and link
you to the actual article on a website.
It queries the Bronco website
for news. Minimized, it looks like a little
locker on the desktop.
Then you can open it up and find clickable
stuff in the locker. This
might be ready by September on the Bronco
-Children's Museum of Denver email campaign:
They collect children's
first names and birthdays and send out Flash
email birthday cards.
The card puts the correct number of candles
on the cake and lets the
kid blow out the candles by clicking.
-Colorado Crush: This is a hybrid between
Flash and HTML. Includes a
Flash banner ad and game schedule. On the
schedule it animates
helmets appropriate to the teams on the
schedule you're looking at.
The banner ad sells Crushware and automatically
various product sets (providing rotating
thumbnail links) depending
on what the user is looking at on the page.
The actual link changes
when the thumbnail changes.
-Front Range Community College. Web-based
training software. This is
an online help engine design for internal
users of the Front Range
Community College Intranet. It shows users
how to manage/edit/create
content using visual flash-based tutorials.
-Frontier airlines (in development): They
want to make pretty
terminal screens at the airport for displaying
data. Can show "Now boarding"
at appropriate time, include a little
news feed, etc.
-Firsthelp for Mckesson Corp (healthcare
information systems): This
is a CD-ROM executable for mac and pc. It
includes a streaming Flash
video format, and the user navigates from
video to video to
-Communitysearch for Simpson Property Group.
They wanted an interface
to allow users to drill down geographically
to find available
properties. The site maps available states
and the map can zoom into
a state to show cities, and then into a
city to show exact property
locations. It also shows text links. We
built the CMS in Flash (which
is usually not feasible)--we needed a system
that allowed content
creators to drag an icon onto the flash
maps to store a new city
location on the map.
- - - - - - - - - -
Flash can give constant user feedback as
to what's happening, such as
during a long download. It can stream and
display some initial
content and entertain during the download,
instead of displaying
nothing. This helps prevent users from leaving
during a long download.
Audience Comment: Flash is still often
just an imitation of HTML
offering no extra benefit--if I'm to wait
for a Flash download, I
want a real payoff.
Flash is often not the best solution. It
will be more bulky than a
lightweight HTML page. But if you need to
display lots of images,
Flash becomes more useful. It can reduce
the need for screen
refreshes. And you can make flash look like
HTML so the user doesn't
even know it's there.
Joe showed some of his client-side Flash
-Smithsonian Institute Coloring Book called
"Scribble": This is
essentially a simple drawing tool with pictures.
A CMS determines
what pictures are in there. Flash MX 2004
object-oriented development, so I can customize
this application for
-Broncos Puzzle: This is all completely
independent of server-side
technology, and all controlled with XML.
-Quicktime VR simulator: It cycles through
images to simulate
user-controlled animation, with zoom, view
angle, etc. It's a way to
avoid using Quicktime. The simulator is
more lightweight, easier to
manage and create images, with less overhead
than Quicktime movies.
This is something an Ebay seller might want
to use, for example.
-Chipotle's Big Buckin' Burrito animation:
It's controlled with
action script and code. You can swap graphic
objects within the
animation and re-skin things. Joe can easily
replace the buckin'
burrito with a buckin' human. This object-oriented
nature brings down
the price of Flash development.
- - - - - - - - - - -
Q: How do search engines like Google deal
with an all-Flash site?
Doesn't it just read HTML?
JOE: Yes, this is a problem that Google
is working on. It doesn't
handle Flash content very well.
JOSH: Google is working on being able to
read Flash files for content.
Q: Are object labels read by search engines?
JOE: I don't know.
Q: What about printing features?
JOE: Flash 7 is implementing some printing
features. They are making
progress there. Unfortunately many people
are still in version 6,
which does support printing--but it's somewhat
Q: Do you use a lot of XML?
JOE: Reading data in from XML is great.
We use it a lot. You can use
"get method" to pass variables.
XML is great for reading in both
static and dynamic data.
Q: How has open source affected your business?
DEAN: Very positively. With open source
we often don't need to
reinvent the wheel. This reduces how much
we have to customize, and
helps customers find affordable alternatives.
I recommend staying
away from products that are rarely used
and not supported--stick with
mainstream stuff so you can find help.
Q: Are businesses concerned with handicapped
compatibility and 508 compliance?
DEAN: There is slow movement there because
of costs. It takes more
time implement, so it's a cost trade-off.
JOE: Lots of cost cutting prevents this.
It's harder to make
good-looking sites that are 508 compliant.
Comment: Government contracts requiring
508 compliance is a motivator.
Q: What do you want to see in the future?
JOE: Flash only supports JPEG. I want Flash
to be able to load in GIF
and PNG dynamically. I'd like clients to
have more resources to allow
us to push the envelope. Aside: DVDs may
be obsolete in ten years,
changing how we manage digital entertainment.
DEAN: I want people to be using the web
more as a business tool.
People aren't yet seeing the benefits of
because of the black eye we all got the
first time around. Flash does
solve a lot of our problems these days.
The future is more about
applying existing technologies than finding
new ones. I'd like to see
us educating more clients about how to use
technology as a true
Q: It's great that you can develop Flash
on a Mac and find that it
just works on Linux and Unix machines. But,
are there any facilities
that allow you save a place during a Flash
JOE: Go to www.multidmedia.com
(note the d between multi and media).
A wrapper tool called Flash Studio Pro has
FS commands that can store
data from a Flash application.
appreciates the sponsorship of
and Copy Diva (http://www.copydiva.com).